First, I want to be extraordinarily careful at the outset of this column. The subject matter to be discussed is very informative and should be known by our citizens. The use of force, particularly deadly force in any circumstance can subject a person to criminal prosecution. Since this is a general rebuttal column about the use of force by a citizen, it is highly recommended that the reader review and understand O.C.G.A. sections 16-3-21, 16-3-23, 16-3-21.1, and 16-3-24 which provide more detailed law on this subject.
With that being said, I am outraged at the number of people who are actively seeking to undermine, weaken, and even eliminate Georgia’s “stand your ground” law. However, when I read about people like Sen. Vincent Fort (D), Jesse Jackson, and the PUSH Rainbow Coalition, it is transparent that these “activists” are simply trying to make headline to promote a specific political agenda.
Ok, so what is the current law in Georgia that is under assault? Since 2006, our law generally provides that a person who uses threats or force relating to the use of force in defense of self or others has no duty to retreat and has a right to stand his or her ground and use force. However, that person must be reasonably in fear of death or grave bodily harm when using such force. That is why great care must be exercised when self-defense used in Georgia.
Additionally, a person who uses threats of force or force for self-defense can be immune from criminal prosecution under certain circumstances unless in the use of deadly force, such person utilizes a weapon the carrying of or possession of which is unlawful by that person. (Such as if a convicted felon were to possess a firearm in using force).
These are called immunity hearings. I have filed a handful of immunity motions myself on behalf of defendants who were justified in using force.
Interestingly, the Georgia Supreme Court has held that once a defendant seeks immunity from prosecution, the trial court is required to resolve the issue before trial. In other words, a jury may never get to decide if the defendant is criminally liable in a deadly shooting when immunity is asserted by the defendant. This is a very rare and unique protection given to a criminal defendant in Georgia.
Essentially, it gives a defendant “two bites at the apple.” If the judge denies immunity, then a jury of 12 will decide if the defendant was justified in using force. This is a shining example of a good and logical defense enjoyed by the citizens with the best criminal justice system in the Republic. In liberal states where “stand your ground” does not exist, a person threatened by force has an obligation to retreat and can strike back only if the threat continues. You can easily picture the helpless victim of violence being required to flee for his or her life. Hopefully the victims in these states are fleet of foot.
If you shoot a violent criminal in these states who is brandishing a shotgun pointed at your son’s head, you will be headed to the state penitentiary.
These activists primarily want to remove the “duty to retreat” provision of Georgia law. This would essentially gut the entire law itself. It would also create the largest class of potential victims in Georgia history.
We are not that kind of state. Georgia’s are self-sufficient, tough, and strong believers in the right to protect themselves and their families. Georgia is proud to have hundreds of thousands of lawful gun owners firmly entrenched in our society. This will not change today and will not change in the near future. All of the Vincent Fort’s of the world will not change the culture of this wonderful state.
For proof of this, look no further than our elected representatives in west Georgia. Representatives Cooke, Nix, and Hightower will ensure that this political stunt will not come close to surviving in the House. Senator Dugan will do the same in the Senate.
Senator Fort, Mr. Jackson, and your minions – Your political posturing and interference with our natural rights are unwelcome in this State, sirs. I would suggest that you take your entourage to a communist country where you may feel more at home.